Much has been made about using pepper spray for personal protection — everything from whether it should be legal to carry while traveling by air, to determining its value in self defense. In honor of June’s National Safety Month, let’s separate fact from fiction, and bring a little clarity to this effective tool:
Myth: Some wasp sprays can be substituted for pepper spray.
While potent on nasty insects, they simply do not have the stopping power to work on humans.
Myth: Some people are immune to pepper spray.
Untrue, says SABRE, a manufacturer of security products for law enforcement and the general public. According to a 2001 University of Utah study, some pepper sprays fail because they do not include the necessary measures to guarantee strength consistency. To ensure heat consistency, SABRE operates a high-performance liquid chromatography lab that tests the strength of every pepper spray batch. SABRE eliminates pepper spray failures due to bad batches.
“That’s a fancy way of saying that scientists are now able to determine how many parts per million of heat-causing alkaloids are present in a given chili pepper,” wrote Dr. Paul Bosland, a genetics research scientist from the University of New Mexico, in Smithsonian Magazine.
Myth: Scoville Heat Units (SHU) can be used to determine strength.
Actually, major capsaicinoids are the only way to determine the heat strength of pepper spray. A Scoville Heat Units listing on pepper spray is subjective and can be inaccurate.
Myth: There is a no-fly rule with pepper spray.
According to the FAA, “one 4-ounce container of pepper spray” is permitted in checked baggage provided it is equipped with a safety mechanism to prevent accidental discharge. While legal to carry in all 50 states, certain restrictions apply so be sure to check your state’s website for regulations.
Myth: There is a chance that you could spray yourself.
SABRE sprays have various safety mechanisms, making it virtually impossible to spray yourself accidentally.
Myth: If used, it could be taken away and used against me.
The whole purpose of pepper spray is to be able to stay at a distance, while incapacitating your attacker. In this way, you can stay up to 10 feet away for sprays and 12 feet away for gels. For added protection, SABRE has a stop strap that will stop the device from spraying if the pepper spray is pulled away from the strap worn around your wrist.
Myth: There is no guarantee it will affect an attacker.
Unless you’ve purchased a bad batch of pepper spray, some of the effects you can expect are: involuntary eye closure, imbalance, loss of breath and facial area burning — all which give you time to escape.